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FIRST USE Panasonic’s new S1H in action SMART GLASS The new language lenses need to learn for post ABBEY HABIT Luscious looks take Downton to the movies
ALSO INSIDE EVOLVE WORKSTATION | CAMERA LISTINGS | WOMEN IN POST THE CROWN SEASON 3 | BUILDING EDIT SUITES 2020 DRESSED TO KILL PEAKY BLINDERS GOES LARGE FORMAT
EDITORIAL Editor Julian Mitchell 01223 492246 firstname.lastname@example.org Staff writer Chelsea Fearnley Contributors Adam Duckworth, Adam Garstone, Ash Connaughton, Phil Rhodes Chief sub editor Beth Fletcher Senior sub editor Siobhan Godwood Sub editor Felicity Evans Junior sub editor Elisha Young ADVERTISING Sales director Matt Snow 01223 499453 email@example.com Sales manager Krishan Parmar 01223 499462 firstname.lastname@example.org Key accounts Nicki Mills 01223 499457 email@example.com DESIGN Design director Andy Jennings Designer Bruce Richardson Ad production Man-Wai Wong PUBLISHING Managing directors Andy Brogden & Matt Pluck SOCIAL MEDIA Instagram @definitionmags Twitter @definitionmags Facebook @definitionmagazine MEDIA PARTNERS & SUPPORTERS OF BRIGHT PUBLISHING LTD, BRIGHT HOUSE, 82 HIGH STREET, SAWSTON, CAMBRIDGESHIRE CB22 3HJ UK
Want to build the ultimate edit suite? Check out our feature on page 40 Image: © LA Productions
W hat is post-production circa 2019? Shouldn’t we now see production as one huge technical wobbling jelly gradually setting as we approach TX or release? (But then there are always styrofoam coffee cups to cut out after the fact #GoT.) To understand the near- and long-term future of post-production, we have summoned up a virtual round table of people whose business is post in all its forms. We don’t promise to change the world with our discussion, but do hope we can turn over some stones to reveal a new way of thinking about things. To that end, we have also carried on our ‘Women in...’ series with this issue looking at, you guessed it, post. Pursuing the ‘post’ theme even more is a look at the design and installation of edit suites in lieu of some powerful new software, such as Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 16 with its new collaboration feature set – there have been several million downloads of this software, iterations unknown, so it’s the nearest thing we have to an NLE standard. If you can’t get enough of all things post, then look out for our article on extended data for post from ‘smart’ lenses.
JULIAN MITCHELL EDITOR
Definition is published monthly by Bright Publishing Ltd, Bright House, 82 High Street, Sawston, Cambridge CB22 3HJ. No part of this magazine can be used without prior written permission of Bright Publishing Ltd. Definition is a registered trademark of Bright Publishing Ltd. The advertisements published in Definition that have been written, designed or produced by employees of Bright Publishing Ltd remain the copyright of Bright Publishing Ltd and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. Prices quoted in sterling, euros and US dollars are street prices, without tax, where available or converted using the exchange rate on the day the magazine went to press.
OCTOBER 20 1 9 | DEF I N I T ION 05
SET- UP 08 TITLE SEQUENCE
Olivia Colman succeeds Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II in Series 3 of The Crown .
11 INTERVIEW – PETER HAMBLIN We interview the DOP at the launch event of the Panasonic S1H in LA about his experience with the new camera. DRAMA 14 DOWNTON ABBEY Downton moves to the big screen for a last hurrah, four years after the series finale. A new DOP joins the Shelby family for Series 5, but how did he put his stamp on it? FEATURES 22 PEAKY BLINDERS
30 THE FUTURE OF POST
Two behemoths of post-production debate what is next for the industry.
36 BUILDING AN EDIT SUITE
The software, the hardware and the workstations you need to create your own post studio.
46 WOMEN IN POST
We shine a spotlight on the women making waves in post-production.
52 SMART GLASS
The lenses offering data for the post-production industry.
GEAR TESTS 56 BLACKMAGIC POCKET CINEMA 6K CAMERA DOP Ash Connaughton debates the benefits of going 6K. 58 PANASONIC LUMIX S1H Adam Duckworth reviews the full-frame 6K video camera.
62 3XS EVOLVE NLE 4K
Is the latest update from Scan up to the task when it comes to video production?
66 CAMERA LISTINGS
Our unique camera listings now offer kit essentials and recommended accessories.
With Sony’s F55 camera on a Steadicam following the new Queen, Olivia Colman, down the aisle for the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill (Winchester Cathedral substituted for St. Paul’s), we enter the next chapter of Netflix Original The Crown . This fantastic series may be using the same camera package and DOP – Adriano Goldman – as the previous one, but there is a new family to get used to: and to get used to filming. Elstree Studios is home for the production from Left Bank Pictures. It occupied several stages with the magnificent exterior sets of Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street located on the backlot. Look out for the full production story in our next issue.
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I NTERV I EW | SET- UP
PANASONIC GOES TO HOLLYWOOD FULL FRAME 6K At the launch event for Panasonic’s Lumix S1H in Los Angeles last month, we interviewed DOP and director Peter Hamblin, who had exclusive use of the camera for his short film
WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY / PICTURES PETER HAMBLI N
P anasonic aptly chose Los Angeles as the spot to finally unveil its first full- frame cinema camera, representing a new zenith of production capabilities in a mirrorless camera. During the launch, the company screened a series of short films that had been shot on a prototype of the S1H. We caught up with the DOP and director Peter Hamblin, whose film riffed on Tinseltown and its Greek underworld of lost souls who moved to LA in the hope of ‘making it’. It centres around two brothers, one of whom has lost all hope, while the other is still in pursuit of their shared dream of becoming filmmakers. We ask Hamblin what he thought of the camera and if it will, in itself, ‘make it’ in Hollywood: the home of professional filmmaking. So, first of all, is there anything you’ve drawn from your own filmmaking experience that triggered your interest in making this piece?
What were your references for the style of the film? I love anything that has a vintage feel to it – something that’s a little bit lost in time. I tried to capture that aesthetic in the brothers’ personalities. Nicky is a sex addict and you can see that, in his world, he is afflicted by his addiction. He can’t
The film is called In Hope of Nothing and it’s called that because we, as
filmmakers, often set out on projects with blind optimism. We get super excited – at least I do – and then we run into people who will shut us down. For instance, when I first came to LA, I spent three thousand dollars getting here, because I had an interview about a surf film that I was working on – which I thought was greenlit. Anyway, I went into this guy’s office and after around 20 minutes he said: “Well, it was nice to meet you, we should definitely work on something in the future.” After that, I got into my car and, as I was driving around LA, I came up with the idea of making a film about the trials and tribulations we go through as filmmakers. In Hope of Nothing is quite tongue-in-cheek, but ultimately, it’s about persistence. It’s about encouraging filmmakers to continue through the hardship, in the hope that one day they will make it.
ABOVE DOP Sam Dewar and DOP and director Peter Hamblin collaborating on set
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SET- UP | I NTERV I EW
walk down the street – which is lit in the style of the 1982 Blade Runner – without being cajoled by women. Then, you go into Jack’s world, which is emptier by contrast. We’re first introduced to him in a derelict seventies bowling alley, and although the film is set in the modern day, Jack is stuck in a different time. He’s a lost soul. Why did you decide to work with the Lumix S1H? We were approached by Panasonic to create some content for the launch event and, after finding out the camera could record the full 3:2 sensor in 6K for anamorphic shooting, I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring my idea to life. I have always liked the look of central symmetry, where your subject is in the centre of the frame and, with anamorphic, you’re forced to do that. But I had never worked in anamorphic before, so it was like learning a new language. It’s just an evolution of filmmaking for me. I won’t lie to you, though, I did have a backup camera on set, but there wasn’t any need to use it. When I first saw the image in the monitor, it was exactly how I envisioned it. I think we were destined to work with the Lumix S1H on this film. Which lenses did you pair with the new camera? I used Cineovision Anamorphic lenses, which are Japanese lenses from the seventies and eighties and, although Panasonic has said the S1H is designed to produce a sharp image, the lenses have, by contrast, created an organic softness and a fall-off around the edges. And this, to me, speaks in volumes as to what this camera can actually do, because it’s a transparent communicator of what the lens is capturing. It has personality.
Both scenes where we meet the brothers include a lot of harsh, fluorescent lighting. Did you have any problems shooting that?
The camera could record the full 3:2 sensor in 6K for anamorphic, which was great so Steadicam was our best option – and actually, that stuck for the other two scenes, where you meet both brothers in their realities. But that first scene, it was tough. We only had 12 hours to prep and shoot the whole thing because of where it was set (RIBA Library, London). Usually, I would spend a day or two beforehand prelighting and blocking scenes, but it was all go, go, go. It’s quite spectacular how we pulled it off, because it looks stunning. Did your Steadicam operator find any drawbacks working with such a My Steadicam operator is called Josh Brookes and he’s incredible. I don’t think he found any drawbacks from that perspective, but he did have a problem with the rigging and the cages we made. The cages we made were set up very last minute, and he wasn’t able to access certain things on the camera properly. Often, we would set up for a shot on the Steadicam and the battery would die, and so he would have to take it out of the cage, which debalances everything, and set it up again. It took a lot of time, but Panasonic is launching a dedicated cage for the S1H very soon. lightweight camera?
We didn’t have any real problems with the light. If you look into both
scenes, especially in the bowling alley, there are so many different lights, but that’s what we wanted. We wanted it to look a bit crazy, with neon lights coming in from all angles and, although the lens flare is big, it doesn’t overwhelm the image. Everything held up really well. We did have one small incident, however, with ghosting on one of the fluorescent lights, but I think that was down to human error, because we only had a couple of days to shoot these scenes with a small monitor to hand, and we must have just missed it. Also, the HD-SDI input wasn’t working on our big monitor at the time, so we didn’t see the light clipping until the film got into post-production. What equipment did you use to move the camera? In the first scene, where you see both brothers in a sort of dream sequence, dressed to the nines and surrounded by adorning fans, there are fifty extras that we paid for just an hour and a half of their time. We needed to be quick and agile,
Now you’ve made this film, what would you like to do next? If we can motivate more budget and hire more crew, we would like to
continue the film. We’ve pulled off things I didn’t think were possible. We wrote a script, found the locations, prepared the sets and shot all three scenes in just one week. It’s a good job the S1H was so reliable, because it meant we could have a little more leeway for everything else.
IMAGES Sam Dewar and Peter Hamblin examine a shot on the Panasonic Lumix S1H
12 DEF I N I T ION | OCTOBER 20 1 9
DRAMA | DOWNTON ABBEY AN INFUSION OF ROYAL-TEA Downton is back, but this time it’s on the big screen and the royals are visiting. We talk to DOP Ben Smithard about how he made the already grand, grander
WORDS CHELSEA FEARNLEY / PICTURES NBC UN I VERSAL
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DRAMA | DOWNTON ABBEY I t’s 1927 and both the downstairs and upstairs residents at Downton Abbey are in a state of full-blown panic. The morning post has brought news of a visit from King George V and Queen Mary. “A royal luncheon, a parade and a dinner,” exclaims Mrs Patmore about the decadent itinerary. “I’m going to have to sit down.” For six series of Downton Abbey , the TV series’ screenwriter and creator, Julian Fellowes, has intertwined the stories of more than a dozen fictional characters with real-life historical events. And it’s true that in 1912 the first Windsors took to Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire – where Downton is set – in what was thought to be the earliest charm offensive between the royals and general public. Not only does this parallel to history serve as a good premise for the film, it unifies the focus between the downstairs and upstairs residents because, despite their different obligations to the house, they’re all working to the same end: the royal visit has to be a success. DOP Ben Smithard explains, “The story is, in essence, rather simple: it’s people coming over for dinner. But in the twenties – in that society – it would have been the biggest event of the year, so it had to be perfect.”
ABOVE Favourite faces return: (from left) Lesley Nicol, Sophie McShera, Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan
Smithard had not worked on the series previously, but after shooting films like Belle and King Lear , he was, to say the least, fairly familiar with the period genre. “I hadn’t really watched the series and I was shooting another film when I got offered the job. So, at the end of each day, I would go home and watch two or three episodes a night. And within the space of six weeks, I had watched everything,” he recalls. While the series served as a good reference for the film, Smithard also drew upon paintings and photographs and upon
his own visual references from films that he had shot before. “It needed to be cinematic, which was quite difficult to achieve with the shoot taking place in the same locations used for TV, but the producers didn’t expect me to follow a line from the series, and I was pretty much given free rein to take it in the direction I wanted.” He continues: “I don’t know if it was ever referenced for TV, but Gosford Park – which is a film Fellowes had written before – was a big reference for me, because it perfectly encapsulates the dynamic
In that society it would have been the biggest event of the year, so it had to be perfect
1917 The year King George V and Queen Mary actually visited Highclere Castle 2.39:1 The aspect ratio the movie was shot in, unlike the TV series, which was shot in 16:9
IMAGES Michelle Dockery with director Michael Engler (centre) and DOP Ben Smithard; and above with Allen Leech. Right: Robert James-Collier
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IMAGES Exterior scenes were mostly shot using ambient light; castle interiors, on the other hand, needed more input
a gloominess from the light. I didn’t really have to do too much to it because of the paintwork, which is dark grey. There’s also a little bit of candlelight and gaslight, but not much because the house staff have taken to using electricity, like a lot of people at that time.” Upstairs was harder to light due to the design of the house, and although a lot of the interior day scenes appear to be lit by natural light coming in from its large and decadent windows, most of it is artificial. “The orientation of the house is a little odd – the front hardly ever gets any sunlight. It was a Victorian upper-class thing, they didn’t sit out in the sun, even when they were indoors – and there aren’t any scenes at the back of the house because that’s not where they used to frequent.” He continues, “This proved useful for all the big scenes that were shot outside the front of the house, such as Lady Edith’s arrival, I could always shoot them with ambient daylight; there wasn’t a requisite for additional lighting on the day exteriors.” The upstairs interiors are awash with stately red and yellow, but despite the bright
between how the people downstairs and upstairs lived. And that’s what made the film, especially the downstairs part of it, because when you’re watching it, you really feel as though you’re walking through a moment in time.” A NEW ERA OF DOWNTON If you’ve seen the trailer, or the movie for that matter, you will have seen Lady Edith, her husband, Herbert Pelham, and their daughter, Marigold, drive back to the old country home in time for the royal affair. “No maid, no valet, no nanny, even!” Robert Crawley exclaims as he greets his daughter on the carriage drive at the front of the house. “It’s 1927,” Pelham replies. “We’re modern folk.” Throughout the series, the differences between the downstairs in comparison to the upstairs residents are highlighted by their vernacular and costume, but also, of course, by the use of light in each setting. It’s much darker downstairs than it is upstairs. But with what seems ‘a new era’ approaching, are those differences waning? Smithard assures, “The upstairs residents haven’t suddenly installed bigger windows downstairs just to make their lives a little bit easier and a little bit brighter. It is still the same.” The servants’ quarter at Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) has undergone a series of modernisations to help it withstand the test of time. It therefore retains no resemblance to how it would have looked in the early 20th century, and so, all of the downstairs scenes are shot on a stage in London, but this meant that it was easier for Smithard to light. He explains, “The stage is painted with a colour that reflects
Smithard’s camera choice had to be something cinematic; it needed to have a different look to the TV series
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Helicopter Girls, in partnership with Marzano Films, supplied the aerials on Downton Abbey . The two companies joined together a year ago to become one of Europe’s leading aerial units, offering helicopter and drone aerials. This was an obvious choice for Ben Smithard, whose vision for a 50-mile steam train tracking scene required something a little larger than a drone. The drones were of course needed for the aerials around the house; Highclere Castle is a real building, home to Lady Carnarvon, so a helicopter would have been excessive and a tad noisy. Privacy was considered before the shoot and the team never flew the drones too close to the castle. Emma Boswell, director of operations, tells us: “The family owns racehorses, so there had to be a dialogue about when an aerial scene was going to take place, so the horses could be moved and wouldn’t be spooked.” The castle really lent itself to low-level aerials, so a lot of the film’s scenic shots were taken around it. “The closing shot of the film is a drone shot of the castle, which starts low and pulls out slowly to manoeuvre around the landscape at sunset. It was important to Ben that the light was perfect, so we were working to make sure we were able to shoot at the right moment,” Boswell reveals. The drones were also used to track the post boy arriving and cars driving up to the castle. The scene with the steam train was particularly exciting for Smithard, who told us that he rarely gets to use helicopters to shoot aerials. The aircraft was a Freefly Alta 8 with Mōvi Pro stabilised gimbal, carrying an Alexa Mini LF with Zeiss Ultra Primes. Boswell notes: “We had a separate iris hand unit for Smithard to control as he likes to work that way; he’s got such a clear vision about what he wants and he’s just a great person to work with.” Helicopter Girls, in partnership with Marzano Films, is now busy working on the 25th Bond film.
and choices, but with new opportunities come different kinds of problems, and those problems are pronounced in the film.” “But that’s all in the writing. Fellowes writes in these little moments, and if you watch carefully, you will see that all the leading female characters have something to say about their female status. And I think that actually, the female characters are more interesting than the male characters. There’s more happening in the women’s lives than in the men’s, but I don’t know why Fellowes wrote it like that.” Smithard esteems Fellowes’ equivalences to history in the script, because, like the “little moments” he describes the female characters as having, they’re subtle and also don’t distract from the fictional storyline. “There’s something that’s really interesting. There’s a character in the film, she’s one of the dressers in the royal household, and she’s having a conversation about Queen Mary, and unless you knew about Queen Mary and what she was like and what she did, then you would miss that.” He continues, “I can see why Fellowes didn’t embellish those details. It would have taken the story on a tangent that it didn’t need to go on. But from a writer’s perspective, it’s all about back story,
colours, lighting these scenes wasn’t always easy. “They involved a lot of characters; whether it be a dinner or a discussion in the library, I was usually working with 20 or 30 actors in one room. And trying to make those scenes look interesting and good, and effective, was quite a struggle, a challenge I should say, but I’m used to doing that, I seem to work on productions with quite large casts.” FELLOWES’ SCRIPT NUANCES The film sees the female characters become increasingly liberated as time moves forward. Lady Mary, who was introduced to TV audiences as someone likely to engage in a sex scandal involving a foreign diplomat, has accepted the huge – and by contrast, boring – responsibility of managing the family estate. And Lady Edith, who has for so long been at the forefront of insult, tragedy and heartbreak, has moved away to Edinburgh to start a family and build a career in publishing. “The female characters are starting to feel more empowered. In the series, the female characters’ personalities aren’t as strong because women were prohibited from being like that in the early 20th century. Towards the end of the series, the female characters start to have more options
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there is a back story to each character and a reason as to why they say certain things. Fellowes, on some occasions, chose not to divulge what those were because it would have taken the story in a different direction. Some writers do that, and I find it quite fascinating, but it’s like, ‘are you in on the joke?’.” In this instance, the joke is about Queen Mary’s daughter, Princess Mary, and her relationship with Lord Harewood, who she was married to. It wasn’t a happy union and the princess, who was sick and bored of her marriage, went to see the Queen at Buckingham Palace to ask for a divorce. But royal protocol at that time would never have allowed it, and legend has it the Queen frogmarched the princess back to her house in Yorkshire, never to speak about it again. ALL ABOARD THE STEAM TRAIN Smithard’s camera choice had to be cinematic; it needed to have a different look to the TV series, which had famously been shot on Arri Alexa since season two. He explains: “I wanted to broaden the horizon of the image and make it bigger. I needed a camera that had a wider range of colour, contrast and luminance… In an ideal world, I would have shot Downton on 35mm or 65mm film, but that wasn’t really an option. So, I shot it on the best camera and best lenses that I could get hold of, and when you see it on the big screen, you’ll hopefully see what I was trying to achieve.” You don’t really get the opportunity to use a full-size helicopter on set anymore, because everyone wants to use drones
Sony Venice was paired with Zeiss Supreme glass, a companion lens for large- format cameras. Smithard used the 25mm, 29mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm and 100mm and explains, “We got one of the first few sets, and I thought that they were going to be a little bit too sharp or a little bit too crisp, but they’re actually really good. I mean, they’re as you would expect from a company that’s been designing lenses for over 100 years. Zeiss do know what they’re doing.” He continues, “I also had some involvement in the design of the Sony Venice. I had shot two films on the Sony F65 [ The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Belle ], which is the Venice’s predecessor, and I knew it was coming because Sony asked me to be involved in the redesign. It’s a very boring thing, but basically, I was put into a room with a load of Japanese designers for about three hours and they asked me about the functionality and appearance of the control panel. And so, I tested the Venice and it’s a great camera. I’ve used it on a couple of features now.” Moving the camera required a Steadicam, an Arri Rental GF16 crane and two PeeWee Mk4 dollies – “the usual stuff” as Smithard notes. “What’s interesting is
that I got to use a helicopter for this film, and I hadn’t used one in a long time. I love doing helicopter work, because I’ve shot on them all around the world, but mainly on commercials.” The helicopter was used to capture the 50-mile journey of a steam train, a shot which, in the film, represents the journey between London and Yorkshire. The train is carrying the letter from the royal household that notifies the Crawley family of the King and Queen’s visit. “You don’t really get the opportunity to use a full-size helicopter on set anymore because everyone wants to use drones, but you can’t fly a drone and chase a train for 50 miles.” He finishes, “Although the aerials around Downton Abbey are all done with drones… it would be a bit risky to fly a helicopter so close to the world’s most famous abbey!” The film was released in UK and US cinemas on 13 and 20 September respectively. Virtually every major cast member is returning for the Crawley family reunion, including Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess.
DOWNTON ABBEY IS ON GENERAL RELEASE IN THE UK AND US
TOP Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle) in all its glory, with a Sony Venice on an Arri Rental GF16 crane in the foreground
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I N ASSOC I AT I ON WI TH
PEAK DRAMA DOP Si Bell joins the Shelby family and their empire of crime for Series 5 of Peaky Blinders
WORDS PH I L RHODES / PICTURES BBC PICTURES
S eries 5 of Peaky Blinders opens with a man on horseback riding across open country under a sky of roiling cloud, a backdrop so striking that it’s easy to believe the shot is a composite. In fact, it’s the work of DOP Si Bell and his crew as they leveraged some of the miserable weather that occurred in September last year, right at the beginning of a six-episode production marathon that would take in all of northern England. It’s a familiar part of the world for Bell, whose career began at Northumbria University with an interest in directing, though he quickly refocused to camera. “We got to shoot on film,” he recalls. “They had 16mm cameras. I wanted to learn more
Electricity that was at the BFI, which was well-received. That helped me get into the TV side of things.” Bell first encountered Peaky Blinders director, Anthony Byrne, on Ripper Street , which was “one of my first TV dramas”. Bell adds: “That was a big break. It was a big budget compared to what I was doing then.” For Bell, Peaky Blinders was a long- held ambition: “I was a big fan of the show, so I’d always wanted to do it. From a cinematography point of view, it’s very highly regarded.” Byrne, Bell says, had “always spoken” about wanting to do Peaky Blinders . “I’d always had chats that he was chasing it and he wanted to do it… When he was going
about the camera side, and worked as a clapper loader on film shoots with some pretty good cinematographers.” After graduating in 2007, Bell entered the industry as a camera trainee, working under SamMcCurdy, BSC, Lol Crawley, BSC, and Philippe Rousselot, AFC, ASC. All the time, though, Bell was shooting his own material. “I was a loader and assistant for three years, but I was shooting on the side. I tried to shoot as much as I could in the early days. When I was on bigger dramas, I was trying to do short films on the weekend with kit loaned from Jamie at Picture Canning.” Bell moved on to shoot “a lot of short films, low-budget features and a couple of commercials”. He recalls: “I did a film called
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ABOVE Series DOP Si Bell kicks back on-set
We had 91 lighting plans and 91 different lighting set-ups. We did them on Shot Designer so everything was organised into it, I knew I was quite likely to get it.” Those initial conversations happened in the middle of 2018 and, when pre-production began, Bell took full advantage of a generous ten-week prep period. “It’s such a big thing to plan,” he says, mentioning particularly the delay between the recce and shoot. “There were so many locations that we recce’d in September and shot in January where we needed multiple machines, rigging and scaffolding to achieve what we wanted.” Getting all this right was a matter of meticulous planning. Bell reports: “We had 91 lighting plans and 91 different lighting set-ups. We did them on Shot Designer, so everything was organised: which machines, what lighting we had rigged. We used the art department plans, put our information into them and printed out a 91- page document with every single plan for the rigging crew so everything was completely clear – what needed to be done, which blackout tents, what rigging was needed. “It was a pretty detailed schedule in that sense; definitely the biggest lighting job I’d ever done.” NETFLIX INVOLVEMENT Bell was under no pressure to use the same equipment as previous seasons – quite the opposite, in fact. “Netflix was more involved in this season. It wanted to shoot 4K and it didn’t want the Alexa, so we picked a new camera. We ended up on the Red Monstro, because we needed a 4K camera.” Creatively, too, Bell was given free reign. “It wasn’t like doing a normal ongoing series, the execs were very much ‘we want you to take control of it’. We wanted it to look like Peaky , but it was very much ‘bring your sort of take’ to it.”
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We had a Steadicam, but we also had an Arri Trinity, so you can boom the camera low and then jib up to head height
testing to choose between the Red Monstro 8K VV, Helium 8K S35 or Gemini 5K S35 and the Sony 6K Venice. Bell’s long-standing relationship with Picture Canning’s managing director, Jamie Hutchinson, proved invaluable for securing the new kit. Years ago, when Bell was learning the trade and working as a camera trainee and clapper loader in the north-east, he built his showreel using discounted or borrowed kit from Hutchinson at Picture Canning’s Newcastle branch, and they have both continued to support each other since. The camera testing concentrated mainly on the low-light scenarios that came from the script, down to a cigarette lighter at times. Natasha Larkin, Picture Canning’s bookings manager, explains the extent of the tests: “When we started testing, they weren’t
This fifth series of Peaky Blinders was shot over a gruelling 77 days between September 2018 and January this year. The Monstro used on the shoot was fitted with a customised EVF dioptre developed by Picture Canning in collaboration with Red, and production support was provided on- site by a level 3 Red technician and off-site by Picture Canning’s Red-certified warehouse team. The original intention was to shoot on the Alexa Mini with Cooke anamorphic lenses, which was already a departure from the norm. “Being a series that was already successful, there’s a lot of pressure to do Peaky as Peaky ,” Bell explains. “It took a while for me to be convinced to go down the anamorphic route, because I hadn’t shot that way before and I didn’t feel like we should be changing anything.” But, after testing various anamorphic options with the Picture Canning team, Bell was convinced: “It’s a subtle change, but one that reflects the different time period and story while staying true to the overall look and feel of Peaky .” Although the team also tested different camera systems at the outset, the selection of the Alexa Mini was almost inevitable, as the camera has become the de facto choice for shooting drama. But Netflix’s decision that the series needed to be delivered in true 4K meant the team needed to return to
sure they had to shoot in 4K. We tested a few set-ups; we had the Sony Venice there, the Alexa Mini, the Alexa LF and a Red Helium, which is the Super 35 8K, rather than the full-frame version. We also tested the Leica Summilux spherical lenses and were looking at the anamorphics, the Cooke S6s and XTals, which are unique-looking lenses and bring a lot of character.” She adds: “There was some talk to mixing spherical and anamorphic for different scenes, but then they settled on the anamorphic look.” LENS CHOICE Bell and Byrne discussed a popular, but potentially tricky lens option. Bell explains: “Anthony wanted to shoot anamorphic and that was one thing we did, but I was thinking, ‘You know what, it’s such a
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PEAKY BL I NDERS | DRAMA
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DRAMA | PEAKY BL I NDERS
I N ASSOC I AT I ON WI TH
PAUL STAPLES, SENIOR COLOURIST,
ENCORE POST PRODUCTION
Anyone whose career started in photochemical film still enjoys a measure of respect based on that. Colourist Paul Staples started working at the Todd-AO film laboratory in 1998 when the it was still based in Camden Town, grading dailies on the night shift before graduating to a more senior position. In 2008, he moved to St Anne’s Post, which would become Encore, and specialised in long- form high-end drama. Staples met Anthony Byrne and Si Bell working on the historical drama Ripper Street , a partnership that he remembers “was referenced in my initial meeting with Anthony” for this project. “I worked on a lot of drama projects,” Staples continues, “and generally kept busy, but it was Broadchurch that really changed things for me. Originally I was given an open brief by director James Strong to ‘show him something different’ – which I think I did.” Staples had previously won a Royal Television Society award for his work on White Heat , shot by Broadchurch DOP Matt Gray, BSC, and finished Hanna in HDR10 for Amazon Prime. “I’ve been a fan of Peaky Blinders and always thought it was a stylish show,” Staples says. “Anthony and Si were very clear, though, that Series 5 is set in a later period. They were very keen for the grade to reflect that in terms of look while still retaining its trademark cool style.” Staples worked in Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve, producing a Dolby Vision master using the Sony BVM-X300 OLED display, and describes the experience in glowing terms. “Grading was unlike any other project I’ve been involved with,” he says. “Every time I applied my base grade, I’d get goosebumps. The images are so beautifully iconic. It’s unlike anything else.”
tight schedule’. I was worried about using these anamorphic lenses with the close focus issues. I’d never shot a TV drama on anamorphic, but it worked out really nicely and had a nice look to it.” Bell chose Cooke’s anamorphics, particularly the 65mmmacro, “which we did a lot of development shots on. It got us out of any problems with the close focus”. There were flame and fire tests done for flaring and the team decided on the Cooke S6s, partly because it was a bigger set. Larkin explains how the final choice of camera was made from the usual drama suspects, including new full-frame models: “The size of the body of the Alexa LF was inhibitive in the end, mainly as there was so much Steadicam. The Sony Venice was nice, but at the time the firmware was still quite limiting in terms of frame rates and other settings. They liked the Mini over the Red Helium, but once Si saw the Monstro, he was sold on it.” MORE GRIP FLEXIBILITY With an eye on grip, director Byrne was, Bell says, a big fan of the flexibility provided by Arri’s Trinity stabiliser. “We had a Steadicam, but we also had the Trinity, so you can boom the camera low and then jib up to head height. We had that for some development shots. The shot in the Garrison where we reveal the pub and the little lad comes in; that big development shot was done on a dolly with the Trinity. That was a really difficult shot to light as well, but you can get the camera in places you never would be able to achieve with Steadicam or dolly alone. Anthony loves that,” says Bell. The schedule involved around ten weeks on location, with the balance on set. Despite the long run that Peaky Blinders has enjoyed, very few standing sets exist: “They had one set that was reused, which was the
IMAGES Production on Peaky Blinders Series 5
£100m Cost of the new Birmingham- based Peaky Blinders production space 40 Number of acres the new site will be in total
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DRAMA | PEAKY BL I NDERS
I N ASSOC I AT I ON WI TH
The Picture Canning Company started out in the last century. This was a few years before high definition and its main business was renting out mostly ENG camera kits. Current managing director, Jamie Hutchinson, joined in 1998, spending his time in tape duplication suites until he worked his way in to the kit room. It’s this kit room background that has provided Hutchinson with such a thorough knowledge of what crews require. “I accelerated quickly from camera kit technician through the kit room,” he says. “Then the DV market came in and I headed up the digital side of things.” He progressed to running the drama department and, in 2004, Hutchinson moved to Picture Canning North, providing much- needed facilities in the north-east. “I was given a VW Transporter van, a digibeta camera and DVcam with support kit and went off to work in the area,” says Hutchinson. Hutchinson’s determination has helped keep the industry going in the north-east, supporting crew by providing work experience, training and kit support. In the past 15 years, he’s expanded from his parents house to a warehouse in Newcastle, while a move to supplying to high-end drama productions facilitated an expansion to London and Manchester. Yet Hutchinson’s ethos of providing round-the-clock support for clients, big or small, remains a key driver. The next chapter is an exciting one with a new venture on the horizon and some big changes that mean Picture Canning will be able to offer even more top quality service and support. JAMIE HUTCHINSON AND PICTURE CANNING’S NEXT CHAPTER
LEFT Si Bell and team on very wet location duties
Instead of using big lights for night stuff, which was the standard, we started using the Litegear Lite Tiles
imaging technician, James Shovlar, who applied a close approximation of Bell’s intended grade on a scene-by-scene basis and made the resulting LUTs available for use through post. The final colour pass took place at Encore Post Production under the supervision of senior colourist Paul Staples, with whom both Byrne and Bell had worked on Ripper Street . Bell supervised the first three episodes in full. “We had quite a strong idea of where it was going to go,” he says. “We used the offline as a guide. Paul didn’t just match it, but used it as a reference. Once we’d set up the first couple of episodes, I was quite confident. Anthony was there and he supervised the last three episodes.” Series 5 of Peaky Blinders is, in some ways, a family affair. “I brought all of my crew onto this series,” Bell says. “No one had done Peaky before. I’ve worked with the grip, Paul Kemp, since I started doing short films and we’ve done almost every job since. He’s a master on the crane and camera movement – he’s not one of these guys who needs instruction for everything. Andrew Fletcher operated the Trinity and Steadicam and most of the A camera. He did a brilliant shot in one of the later episodes where we played this one five-page scene in one shot; it was outstanding. Ollie Whickman is a great collaborator – Peaky was his first gaffer job on this kind of scale and he did a great job.” Finally, Bell is keen to credit focus puller Tom Finch for his skill at keeping the difficult lenses in check. Bell has since worked on Britannia and a production he describes as “a dark take on A Christmas Carol with Guy Pearce”. Dickens and Pearce? What more could you want for Christmas?
Shelby headquarters. Everything else we had to build again. The Garrison hadn’t been in the series for a couple of years, and that was a whole new build. We had the Houses of Parliament, a small set we used for the betting shop, the Shelby HQ and another set we flipped for different purposes – we used it for the Friends’ Meeting House set and another set that I can’t talk about.” Interior lighting set-ups were driven by the reality that period interior light is motivated by the exterior. “It was a lot of big lights outside windows, 18Ks and 20Ks. Everything was beams – Molebeams, whatever it was depending on the location.” Outside, similarly upscale arrangements were normal: “Nearly every day we’d have Manitous with 20-by-20-feet blacks on to flag the sun. It was all about controlling the light and making sure it would be ready to go when we turned up. Shoot quickly and get the look we wanted.” For night exteriors, Bell used a technique he and gaffer Ollie Whickman had developed on the Roman historical epic, Britannia . “Instead of using big lights for night stuff, which was the standard, we started using the Litegear LiteTiles and building them into big 16-by-8-foot rectangles. We put them on the machine and used them like the moonlight, a softer controllable source. We never had them at 5600K, we put a bit of the tungsten into it, so it was normally about 4800K. Depending which practicals we used, we might adjust that depending on how much orange light we had.” This sort of control was common to almost everything Bell used: “We’d have everything on the iPads. In the sets, the practicals would be dimmable, too.” EDIT AND BEYOND The edit used offline files created by digital
PEAKY BLINDERS IS AVAILABLE TO STREAM NOW ON BBC IPLAYER
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FUTURE OF POST- PRODUCT ION | FEATURE
FUTURE POST ALL THE BEST TECHNOLOGISTS QUESTION THE STATUS QUO, AND IN POST-PRODUCTION, THINGS HAVE TO EVOLVE TO MANAGE THE CURRENT TORRENT OF CONTENT
WORDS JULI AN M ITCHELL / CARICATURES BRUCE RICHARDSON
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FEATURE | FUTURE OF POST- PRODUCT ION
T his future of post-production article is an exercise in crystal-ball gazing; everyone does it and the answers you come up with depend usually on who you ask. We hope this article will be the start of a series looking at the future of different areas of the business. For this article we’re very happy to ask questions of two experts in their field, Lee Danskin, who is CTO of Escape Technology and Zak Turner CEO of US-based post group HARBOR. What service or technology will have the most impact on post- production in the next five years and why? years. I don’t see post houses as being machine learners in the first instance, I think they’ll be consumers of the learning outcomes. Most of the manufacturers are working on some sort of AI solution; there’s AI in Flame now and there are a lot of things coming from the likes of Adobe with their research that are all super interesting for the future. Obviously, that requires a lot of compute, it requires a lot of ‘tin’, something that everybody out there is trying to move away from for all the right reasons. The technology is changing at such a pace now that you don’t really want to be using hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of whatever that is under your desk to read your email on. The more VFX-like work, the more Maya, Houdini-type workflows you have, the more you can specialise the compute resources that you need and then just consume them as and when you want. If it’s just a traditional editing, broadcast kind of place then their technology requirements are very different from a simulation VFX kind of house. Each one has its benefits and disadvantages but obviously within the next five years Lee Danskin: It is the cloud, to a degree. From a technology standpoint cloud and AI are the two things that will have the most influence over the next five
The cloud will be one of the tools in the arsenal required to address the scale of demand for content production and distribution
we’ll probably see the end or the death of the spinning disk. We’re beginning to see that now with, for instance, 15TB SSDs and bigger capacities coming in the solid state arena. That starts to offer up other potentials in terms of central storage; there are a lot of companies that are still working around the single GB/s networking to their machines and still use restricted file formats of the ProRes, DNxHD type, not fully uncompressed video formats. A lot of people have been skirting around the cost requirements but with Adobe Premiere now being able to play native file formats straight off the camera, the only thing stopping this growth is technology and hardware costs. It’s super expensive right now but that will come down immeasurably, the days of hugely expensive HDR monitors for instance are coming to an end. There’s still going to be a requirement for a grade 1 monitor without a doubt but soon you’ll be able to sit at a workstation and do an end- to-end production without having to dive
in and out of other suites. So, the editors of the world will become more than just the editors which will affect the broadcast world a lot more with the 4K agenda being pushed by the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Disney and Apple with new subscription services. You will also see the legitimising of mobile screen technology with new panels from companies like Apple and its HDR- compatible screen tech. The excuse of it just going on mobile is going to go away very quickly especially with 5G on its way, so delivery to mobile devices is going to change the way you view programming and there won’t be any scaling up to achieve broadcast-standard resolutions. There are also more pipeline technologies like Universal Scene Description from Pixar which is the open source file format. That has been adopted by Apple with USDZ so you’ve got a crossover there where you can start to utilise film-quality assets being used in AR and VR type scenarios. You can then
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FUTURE OF POST- PRODUCT ION | FEATURE
ZAK TUCKER The co-founder and CEO of HARBOR. For more than 20 years, Zak has been strategically disrupting to create one of the first end-to-end, cross-genre, independent production studios of its kind. Zak started as an editor for commercials and documentaries, but soon progressed to directing. He launched Swete Post in 2000 and in 2012 launched HARBOR. Zak built HARBOR from a staff of four and a footprint of 400 square feet, offering two services, into a staff of 100 and a campus of 70,000 square feet, offering the full range of production and post-production services.
LEE DANSKIN Lee started his career at Alias as a senior applications analyst. He helped build and launch Maya 1.0 before moving to The Film Factory as VFX supervisor. He then joined Smoke & Mirrors as head of 3D before becoming deputy head of 3D commercials/ broadcast for MPC. Lee moved to Escape Studios as training development director in 2006, where he redefined its training programme by making it more industry relevant. A year later he was made a Maya Master. Lee is now CTO of Escape.
the pull process, which has been done to some extent already, but also automate the delivery back to the post house from the VFX vendors and the off-line suites, maintaining colour pipelines and metadata integrity so you can iterate and reiterate and deliver on time. We’ve have already implemented parts of this with our own coders and R&D sections. We can already automate the pull process with our own process for delivery to the vendors, we’re really focussed now on retrieval from them. Also auto-conforming and auto-updating on offline suites along with exposing the pull system to our clients so that we can get out of the way as well. Our clients can then do 24/7 pulls and retrieval without human intervention except for the skilled human QC elements, troubleshooting and customisation. Is the traditional model still relevant especially when post companies are increasingly active in pre-production? ZT: Going forward the cloud will be one of the tools in the arsenal required to address the scale of demand for premium content production and How will the cloud’s growth reflect on post-production’s performance?
everything is a cookie cutter result. AI will be part of the toolset but I’m also talking about all sorts of other coding and scripting that can take processes that we normally do by hand on a daily basis, and automating them. The demand for premium content creation has gone through the roof and there are literally not enough people and expertise to achieve it at that level if you don’t automate. The speed of turnaround will not be possible. One example would be around VFX pulls, for instance, and retrieval automations. Especially on larger VFX features and episodics you can automate
have multiple teams working not only on a pipeline within a building, but because of the way USDZ been structured, it can be used via the cloud as well. Zak Tucker: The sheer scale of demand for premium content creation is mandating really intuitive automation for appropriate post-production processes; coupled with quite high-touch bespoke human QC, intervention and customisation. That’s why we don’t see it a particular service of a particular technology but more of an approach that couples automation where it’s appropriate with humans overseeing it. So you still have custom workflows so not
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